|Little League Tee-Ballers, The Express in 2009.|
Anyway, the mantra I've used with my young players, which has evolved over time and which I send to parents at the beginning of each season, includes:
1. Respect the game. Respect parents, coaches, and umpires. Coaches are volunteers and umpires are, typically, teenagers or young adults. Don't argue calls.
2. Love the game. Hustle on and off the field. Run, don't walk, to first base on a "ball four" call. Have fun.
3. Pick-up teammates. Everyone makes mistakes. Stay positive with teammates after either a great play or an error.
4. Hit the cut-off man. This is a new one for me and not a euphemism. Reinforce getting the ball to the cut-off to save bases and get more outs during the game.
In the context of "Love the game," I coach players to sprint to first base, a la Pete Rose, after a walk or a dropped third strike. If the catcher takes his time to pick up the ball or isn't paying attention, then, as the first base coach, I send the runner to steal second base even before the next pitch is thrown. My teams have grabbed quite a few extra bases by loving the game, hustling, and paying attention.
|St. Louis Cardinals' relief pitcher Al Hrabosky.|
Once, the father of a player on another team whose son I'd coached years earlier grabbed my ear and told me that he didn't think that teaching kids to steal second base after a walk or a dropped third strike was good "baseball fundamentals" because those sort of things weren't done at higher levels of baseball. In fact, he was more than a little indignant. My team had probably stolen a few too many bases against his son's team that day. I disagreed and cited an instance that I recalled in the '70's when Al Hrabosky was doing his "Mad Hungarian Psyche" between pitches and wasn't paying attention to the players on base. During Hrabosky's "show," the opposing team's runners advanced.
The guy didn't buy it, rolled his eyes, and reinforced his disapproval. I continued to coach the game and my players to take advantage of the opportunities that the game provided. I wish I could have pulled out my phone and showed him this video.
Jose Bautista hustling to second base.
Respect the game. Love the game. Pick up your teammates. Hit the cut-off man. Of course, take advantage of the opportunities that the game gives you.